The Responsive Environments team at the MIT Media Lab have come up with something quite interesting. Using a stretchable, sensor endowed fabric known as “sensate media” they’ve come up with a material based instrument called the FabricKeyboard. It uses textile sensors and the nature of knitted fabrics to create quite an extraordinary MIDI controller that you can fold up and stick in your bag.
They describe it as this:
FabricKeyboard is sensor-rich, multi-modal, novel physical interaction media based on fabric, developed by using both common and smart textile-based materials.
So it’s like smart denim that you can sew into all sorts of shapes, sizes and applications. There are multiple layers of material, detecting touch, proximity, pressure, stretch, position and electric field simultaneously. This is all about “system-on-textile”. Fabric sensors, on piezo-resistive and conductive fabrics, are machine-sewn onto base knit material with conductive threads. Forget ROLI, this is a controller that you can not only play in more than 5 dimensions, but you could roll around in it.
The current hardware uses MIDI to control whatever it is that’s being controlled off-camera. But they are also exploring OSC and a wireless mode.
Is it exciting?
Yes, sort of. I mean please don’t give us MIDI clothing, no one wants to trigger loops when they adjust their trousers. But in being able to create controllers in so far unimagined designs and formats, that are flexible and modular, light and adjustable, and machine washable is quite exciting.
More information on the MIT Media Lab website.